Into the wind
340km Busselton to Manjimup
We get a late start out of Busselton – the biggest tourist town in this part of Australia. People just can’t resist those white, sandy beaches and the area apparently triples in size over Christmas.
Our late start isn’t down to sightseeing. The trendy cafes are out of our budget and we definitely don’t need a Busselton t-shirt. We just can’t drag ourselves out of bed. The relentless wind since we left Perth never seems to turn in the right direction. It’s worn us down.
Two pots of coffee later, we finally get going and for the first few kilometers the cycling is straight out of a dream. We’re on a beautiful bike path by the teal green ocean and the wind hasn’t yet kicked in.
When the bike path ends, however, the whole situation turns around. We are unceremoniously dumped onto a busy highway with no shoulder. Most cars are courteous and leave enough space as they pass but the few vehicles that cut it fine make us nervous.
We spend the next half hour with our eyes glued to our mirrors, waving our hands as each car approaches to make sure they see us. Once or twice we can’t see any sign of movement so we make an emergency escape to the unpaved shoulder. This isn’t our idea of fun.
We’re happy when the next town appears and we can once again escape to more quiet roads. We cross our fingers for quieter cycling ahead as we sort out a few chores. With the post office visited, the grocery shopping done and emails checked, we’re off again.
Our afternoon plan is to head to a microbrewery, where they have free BBQs for customers to use. What an idea! We are very tempted to try some local beer and even more so if we don’t have to buy an expensive meal. Rain clouds are gathering overhead, but we decide to go for it anyway.
The Bushshack brewery staff couldn’t be more welcoming. Within moments, they’re asking if we need any utensils or condiments and making sure we know it’s okay to bring our food into the restaurant, especially if it starts to rain. We are under strict orders to make ourselves at home.
This flabbergasts us. We have never before seen a restaurant that was so happy to have people bring their own food. We show our thanks by ordering a taster tray of beer and we get our lunch cooked just as the heavens open. Safely under the wooden roof of the porch, we both agree that chili beer is our favourite, followed by a Scottish ale and a dark chocolate brew.
As soon as the weather clears, we’re off again, this time heading for the surfing town of Yallingup. We actually expect to go further but as soon as we see the gorgeous coastline it’s clear we’re not budging. The rocky landscape reminds us a little of Cape Breton and we find the perfect tent spot on a walking trail along the seaside. We don’t see a single person for the rest of the afternoon or evening and the views rank right up there with the best we’ve seen on our trip.
We wake up thinking that the day just gone will be hard to beat in terms of scenery. As we turn inland, it’s true the rolling hills aren’t so picturesque. But now we’re heading for the heart of the Margaret River wine region and we’re in for a gourmet feast.
We eat our way through the tasting sections of at least five specialty food shops, wash it all down with two winery visits and still make room for lunch in the middle. By the end of the day, we’re feeling very satisfied with ourselves.
More Australian beauty comes our way the next morning as we glide through a tall forest of silvery trees, on our way to Augusta and Cape Leeuwin, at the tip of southwest Australia. We don’t go into the lighthouse but we do watch dolphins and rays swimming just offshore as we eat our lunch at a deserted beach.
That evening we do the calculations and we’re really disappointed when we realise that soon we must turn around and head back to Perth if we’re going to make our train to Adelaide. We’ve only covered the smallest sliver of Australia and there’s so much more we’d love to see.
Saturday has the potential to be really boring. A long, straight road awaits us, across a stretch of forest without any towns or landmarks. But we’re just 10km in when things get more interesting. “Come and have coffee,” we hear someone shout. That’s our call! We turn our bikes around and soon we’re sipping a cuppa with a group of protesters, trying to save the forest from being logged. They’re a dedicated group and tell us we’re welcome to pitch our tent with them for a few nights.
With a vegetable garden, compost toilet, living area and children’s playground, the protest camp is better equipped than most campgrounds we’ve been to, but we decline and carry on, anxious to do as much as we can with our remaining days.
Sunday was also supposed to be a quiet day but once again, we’re just a short distance down the road when there’s a cry from behind. This time it’s a group of racing cyclists from the nearest town. They quickly catch up with us, we chat a bit and then they’re off. “Get the coffee ready!” we shout as a joke. “The bakery will take care of that!” they reply.
Bakery? We spend the next half hour deciding whether we’ll go with the cinnamon rolls or the brownies and when we get there the boss – a cyclist himself – insists on treating us to a coffee. What a fantastic small-town welcome. We say thanks by loading up on sweets and treats for the road ahead. All Sunday mornings should be so good.
Lunch is in a nearby forest, then we climb 60 meters up a tree, where there’s a fire lookout post that gives an amazing view over the surrounding countryside. When we set off again in the afternoon the heat has really risen and by the time we get to Manjimup all we can think of is a shower. We haven’t had a proper one since leaving Busselton.
All cleaned up, we’re munching our pasta and listening to the radio.
“There’s a high wind warning for the southwest,” says the lady on the radio. After a few days of relatively peaceful riding, it looks like we’re in for more breezy days.